Audience investigates a murder at the museum

Theatre brings a fresh take to a cold case

If you’ve always wanted to take part in a murder investigation, here’s your chance. Fort la Reine Museum in Portage la Prairie will host its annual Murder at the Museum for two weekends in September.

Unlike typical theatre, Murder at the Museum relies on audience interaction.

“The audience meets the detective, who acts as the protagonist but also as the tour guide throughout the story,” writer and producer Miranda Moroz explains.

The audience can piece together the mystery as they go along.

“At the end of certain scenes, the audience will get a chance to interact with the detective, to ask questions and come up with their own theory as to who might have committed the crime,” Moroz says.

The project was brought to Fort la Reine in 2011 by executive director Tracey Turner.

“I saw it as an opportunity to utilize the landscape and heritage aspects in a way where we’re not just open day-to-day,” Turner says. Moroz has been writing and producing the show for the past three years.

As the museum’s curator, Turner strives to breathe life into the past, bringing out historical events for attendees to experience themselves. 

Actor Dagen Perrott plays an inspector character in Murder at the Museum.

“Bringing in an interactive theatrical experience is a way to look at a heritage environment in a very different fashion,” she explains.

The plays are based on real murders, often ones that took place in the region.

“We select a historic event and combine it with a bit of fiction to create a fresh take on the story,” Moroz says. These revived stories are generally relevant to current exhibits at the museum.

This year, Case at the Edge of the Woods features the recurring character Inspector James Buchanan in a romance-involved murder that happened nearby in the 1940s. The investigation on which it is based ended as a cold case – the murder was never solved.

Moroz believes a cold case gives her more creative license.

“You have a lot more freedom in terms of how the show ends up,” she says. There was little information to be found since the case was abandoned, which gave Moroz the opportunity to add elements of her own.

Although mostly scripted, the show is interactive until the bitter end. The final scene is held in the courthouse, where the audience acts as the jury.

“They decide if the accused character is guilty, not guilty, or if they want to accuse another character entirely. There are multiple endings to the show,” Moroz says.

The site itself is part of what Turner believes makes the play singular.

“One of the major features of a place like this are the heritage buildings themselves and the landscape. We have over 30 heritage buildings,” she says. The buildings are from the same period and region as original events, which makes the site an ideal stage.

With only six shows, tickets go fast. Past years have sold out and seen attendees turned away at the door, so get your tickets early and prepare to unleash your inner Poirot.

Murder at the Museum runs Sept. 15, 16, 22 and 23. Shows are at 6 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 9 p.m., and tickets are $15 each.

Published in Volume 72, Number 2 of The Uniter (September 14, 2017)

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